Decision Maker

Windows Server Auditing: Third-Party Solutions Are a Good Thing!

Why the one size-fits-all approach wouldn't work for you or Microsoft.

I need to rant. It's the end of a frustrating week. I worked with a half-dozen customers who are really, really irritated that Windows Server won't do exactly what they want in regard to auditing, unless they add third-party software.

Seriously? Does any informed decision maker expect every product to do everything for every company with no add-ons or customizations?

Have you ever seen a Ford F-550? They don't show up as pickup trucks all that often. Instead, you'll see the F-550 badge stuck to the side of RVs, delivery trucks, commercial vans, catering trucks and more. Ford makes a strong, flexible chassis and sells it to third parties, who customize it for specific industries. Nobody's going to Ford and demanding some Frankentruck that sleeps four, has a four-burner cooktop and room for oversized packages. C'mon. Even in my first IT job, where we probably paid a zillion dollars for our AS/400, we knew we were going to have to buy third-party software to do the specific things our industry required -- and spend a zillion dollars customizing that software for the specific needs of our business.

Customization Required
Auditing is the area where this has come up the most, and I just don't know what to tell people. I'll start with this:

"Well, you want specific things from auditing but every business needs something slightly different. If Microsoft tried to give all of you what you need, you'd all hate it because it wouldn't be exactly what you need. So instead, the company builds a good platform with APIs that other vendors can hook into. Those vendors can be a lot closer to your line of business and they can get you the exact bits you need built on top of that platform."

And people think I'm dissing Microsoft. Folks, "one size fits all" means "doesn't fit anybody well." Microsoft makes, for the most part, general-purpose software; in areas such as auditing, where customers' needs tend to cover an enormous range, Microsoft relies on its ISV partners to develop industry-specific solutions. I know times are tough and everyone's still tightening the belt, but if you thought you were going to build the perfect network using only what came in the box ... well, isn't that delusional right from the outset?

If anything, Microsoft has done a better job than most OS vendors in terms of building public, documented APIs that ISVs can hook into. The platform's great -- I just don't understand this concept of, "I expect everything to be included in the box," unless you're talking about a specific all-in-one solution such as Microsoft Small Business Server. I haven't run across a server OS yet that, out of the box, does everything that every business needs.

Optimizing the OS
OK, rant done. I understand that it's tough for companies to drop thousands of dollars on Windows Server licenses and then have to drop thousands more to make Windows Server work for their specific environment. But it seems that the software industry -- the OS side, at least -- has always been this way, so I'm not sure where the expectation came from. Are we seeing a new wave of decision makers who just don't have the background needed to form a more realistic expectation? Or is this a push for Microsoft to build more functionality -- which has typically been provided as add-ons by industry-specific ISVs -- into the OS?

What's your take? What functionality do you expect to come with an OS, and what do you expect to have to add on? Is auditing a hot button for your organization and, if so, how have you dealt with it?  

About the Author

Don Jones is a 12-year industry veteran, author of more than 45 technology books and an in-demand speaker at industry events worldwide. His broad technological background, combined with his years of managerial-level business experience, make him a sought-after consultant by companies that want to better align their technology resources to their business direction. Jones is a contributor to TechNet Magazine and Redmond, and writes a blog at ConcentratedTech.com.

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